“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” – Heather D. Heyer
On Sunday afternoon I had the great honor of standing in solidarity with hundreds of my fellow Howard Countians against hatred, bigotry and the idea of white supremacy. We came together at a Black Lives Vigil, organized by the UUC of Columbia and the Howard Chapter of the NAACP, and determined to not let the horrific events in Charlottesville, Virginia deter us from our resolve to make this a more perfect Union, one where equal justice under the law becomes more than an ideal, but a way of life. It was truly one of the more awe-inspiring events of my life, one I shall not soon forget.
We took a moment to honor the lives of Heather Hyer, a victim of nothing less than an act of domestic terrorism, as well as those of Lt. Jay Cullen and Trooper Burke Bates from the Virginia Police. In a poignant moment, we sang “We Shall Overcome”, a song that reminded me of my mother, who passed away exactly 11 months from the day of the vigil. We then heard inspiring words from many of our leaders; I was especially touched by the remarks of Councilman Jon Weinstein, whose son was actually in Charlottesville over the weekend.
I left the vigil both encouraged and inspired. I was further moved when I got home to discover that thousands across and the state and nation had also taken time out of their Sundays to rally against hate. That feeling continued over the next 36 or so hours, as leaders of all political stripes denounced neo-Nazism, white supremacy and the so-called Alt-right, and then turned their attention to the efforts to remove statues that are reminders of the darker side of our Nation’s history. I was even heartened to see our President make a statement on Monday against the ideas espoused by those groups that gathered in Charlottesville to protest the removal of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
All that changed this afternoon, which is why I write this message after deciding on Sunday to let my participation at the vigil be my statement. The fact that our President – the leader of the free world – would offer a defense of white supremacists is nothing short of reprehensible, and completely beneath the dignity of the office. Like many of you, I sat stunned watching our Nation’s leader becoming unhinged live on television, with shock turning into anger at his display, which included a reference to “some very fine people” among white nationalists assembled in Charlottesville. Let’s be clear, there were, in fact, “both sides” in Charlottesville – one consisting of those that would take freedom and justice away from all that don’t look like them, the other bound in their determination to fight that ideal with everything they’ve got.
I join those in Howard County and elsewhere that stand with the “other side,” joined in our common cause, resolute to rally as long as it takes to bend the arc of history towards peace, justice, equality, and love. The generation of our parents gave their all – in some cases, their very lives – in their quest for equal justice under the law; it’s now our turn to pick up that mantle and carry on in their honor, and on behalf of future generations.
As always, please feel free to contact me with your thoughts, concerns, etc. Thanks.
“The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die.” – Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy